‘Active gratitude’ important when serving in your community


Mayor Toby Barker challenged the dozens of first responders and guests to live “in active gratitude” during Hattiesburg’s 9/11 observance of Patriots’ Day Monday morning at Fire Station No. 1.

The observance marked the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.

Barker said everyone must do more than just reflect and remember.

“To pass on our thoughts to people who died that day, to the many people who have died in war since then and to our police and firemen just a few days a year is not enough,” he said. “The challenge that we have when we consider the 16 years since 9/11 is how now will we live. We should strive to live in active gratitude, to earn it, to earn the sacrifices so many before us have made.”

Because Patriots’ Day is a day of service, Barker challenged the audience to improve “the next generation, to better our neighborhood and to say thank you to our first responders.”

“We should have active gratitude and serve our community,” he said. “But do we also sow words of peace? With our nation so divided, do our words unify each other, whether in person or on social media? We have that power.”

Barker said he remembered seeing the attacks on the World Trade Center as he walked through R.C. Cook Union as a sophomore at the University of Sothern Mississippi.

“As we watched the first responders, we heard the stories heroism, where police and firemen went into the building and many of them didn’t come back out, knowing what would probably happen,” he said. “To get as many folks out as they could, everyone rushed in. While many people were running away from the danger, it was our police and fire that were running toward.”

Barker said first responders can make a difference in many people’s lives.

“Their sacrifices on a day-to-day basis are taken for granted,” he said. “Whether it’s a terrorist attack or whether it’s a hurricane or tornado or whether it’s a fire at a motel on Hwy. 49, it’s our first responders who are always the first ones to go in. Often they are taken for granted and many times, they are even targeted with words or violence as we know in this community all too well.”

The ceremony also included the singing of The National Anthem and “Hero” by Judge Gay Polk Payton-White, a 21-gun salute by the Hattiesburg Police department Honor Guard, the lowering of the flag and the laying of the wreath by the Hattiesburg Fire Department Honor Guard and firefighter Tristen Reid rang the bell at the times the two airliners crashed into the World Trade Center.

Hattiesburg Fire Chief Paul Presley made opening remarks, Bo Tims of VFW Post 3036 gave the opening prayer and the benediction, Battalion Chief Joseph Anderson of the Hattiesburg Fire Department led the Pledge of Allegiance and Jon Mark Herrington, commander of American Legion Post 24 presented $500 checks each to the Hattiesburg Police and Fire departments.

Jessie Mathias Reeves performed “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.